In an argument the other day I said “Give up, it's like the Phaistos Disk, you'll never figure it out.” I got blank stares, and realized that not everyone knows about this beautiful, unique and mysterious object. Here's a picture.

The Phaistos disk

The disk was discovered in 1903 during the excavation of a Minoan palace in Phaistos, Crete. It's about 16cm. in diameter and has what really looks like an inscription on both sides, a total of 241 characters, 45 distinct, impressed with punches on wet clay. It's been stated that this is the oldest “printed” artifact, although some might quibble over the distinction between this and cuneiform.

Nobody knows what language it's in or what it says. A search on the Net reveals a handful of triumphant announcements of its decipherment, but none of them seem to have consensus backing of the experts.

It's beautiful, it's a mystery, and it's very old; what's not to like?

author · Dad
colophon · rights

April 04, 2003
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